Realising the Potential of BIM

Adrian Malone
Faithful+Gould, through our role on pioneering projects such as HMYOI Cookham Wood for the Ministry of Justice, the first UK Government BIM early adopter project, are embracing the opportunity to drive forward the use of BIM for our clients.

The UK government has set a target that all publically procured construction projects will use Level 2 BIM by 2016. It is our experience that many public sector clients are not prepared to wait until 2016, and clients from the private sector are also increasingly driving the pace of innovation through BIM adoption.

Whilst BIM can be ‘bolted on’ to projects it is our experience that far greater benefits can be achieved when BIM is integrated into project delivery processes. Integrating BIM at Level 2 requires often small changes to be made to how we work, real benefits are realised when these changes are made in harmony across the supply chain team delivering the project. We have found that one of the most striking benefits of working with BIM is nothing to do with technology but comes from closer working relationships and greater co-ordination at an early stage in the project which result from the project team coming together early to talk about how we will work together to deliver the project. Introducing BIM provides a stimulus to collaborate, collectively challenge assumptions and to have a structured conversation about how project information will be created and co-ordinated.

It is important not to become blind to the current limitations of the technology.

The technology associated with BIM does bring efficiency benefits directly, a simple example being the speed at which quantities can be taken off from a BIM model compared to more traditional methods. However it is important not to become blind to the current limitations of the technology, and the potential pitfalls. BIM models do not contain all of the information needed for a full cost estimate; indeed items required for a full cost estimate include project costs which sit outside of the model. The benefit BIM brings is in reducing the time spent by the quantity surveyor extracting the quantities to help ensure sufficient time is available to accurately benchmark the project and give feedback on the design, for example through the application of value engineering and value management.

BIM is extremely valuable as a tool to help clients and stakeholders who may not be familiar with interpreting CAD drawings to understand the proposed design and to give feedback at an early stage in the project when changes to the design are significantly less expensive than those made when construction has started. Through a more automated approach to quantity take-off and by providing a means to more efficiently manage changes to schedules resulting from revisions to the design feedback can be more rapidly and cost effectively provided on the impact of design changes.

It is important to remember as BIM is introduced on construction projects that BIM is more than a technology. Level 2 BIM can deliver real benefits for both clients and for project teams; these benefits are amplified greatly when changes are co-ordinated and jointly owned and delivered by the supply chain team. Although there is much work still to be done to meet the UK government target for Level 2 BIM, discussion about Level 3 BIM has already started - however defining Level 3 is still in its infancy. As our industry introduces Level 2 BIM we must recognise that this is not the end, rather Level 2 is a significant milestone on a far greater journey.

What we can be sure of is that change will continue and it is our collective responsibility to embrace this change.

As an industry we must ensure that changes introduced now create openness for further change to come, and that in climbing the first mountain to achieve level 2 we do not exhaust the resources which will be necessary to maintain vigour for the onward journey. In practical terms this means ensuring that changes made in order to achieve level 2 BIM do not lock us into software tools, processes, new habits or delivery structures which make it more difficult to deliver the next level innovation in the delivery of projects – no small task when a shared definition of BIM at Level 2 continues to evade our industry, let alone that for Level 3. What we can be sure of is that change will continue and it is our collective responsibility to embrace this change and ensure that the potential of BIM is realised for our clients and industry.